Local Cardiac Arrest Survivor Reunites with Samaritans Who Saved His Life

Local Cardiac Arrest Survivor Reunites with Samaritans Who Saved His Life

Dennis Dillon, left, thanks the people who helped him survive a near-fatal heart attack last year. Photo by David Luces

“The kindness and compassion in these people’s heart is why I’m here [today],” Dennis Dillon, 62, said of the group of good Samaritans who he said rushed to his aid after he went into cardiac arrest during a boating trip at Port Jefferson Harbor Aug. 31 over Labor Day weekend. 

The Mount Sinai native, along with his family, reunited Feb. 8 with the rescuers for the first time since the incident. The 10 individuals were presented with the Stony Brook University Heart Institute’s Heart Saver Community Award. 

Mount Sinai native Dennis Dillon stands alongside the good Samaritans and doctors who saved his life a year ago. Photo by David Luces

After Dillon returned from a swim, he went into cardiac arrest after experiencing back and arm pain as well as nausea. His wife, Tricia, immediately began CPR and within minutes good Samaritans began assisting with CPR and sent up a flare to ensure that an ambulance would be standing by. Dillon’s heart was then shocked twice by an AED (defibrillator) and was brought back to shore where he was taken to the heart institute. 

Doctors said the father of three had a 100 percent blockage of the left anterior descending coronary artery, a key artery known as LAD that moves blood to the heart. The condition is dangerous because of its low survival rate, and is often referred to as “the widowmaker.”

“Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, which Mr. Dillon suffered from, is associated with a 5 to 9 percent survival rate,” said Dr. Puja Parikh, interventional cardiologist and co-director of the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement Program at the heart institute. “It is a true
testament to the bystanders that were present that day, the measures they took before he [Dillon] came to the hospital definitely helped.”

Dillon’s treatment included a drug-eluting stent to his LAD, a tiny metal tube coated with a medication to clear the artery and keep it clear, and tracheal intubation to ensure an open and unobstructed airway. His body temperature was lowered when brought to the coronary care unit, to allow time for his brain and body to heal. Prior to discharge, the catherization team implanted a small internal cardioverter defibrillator in order to avert another cardiac crisis. After 11 days, the Mount Sinai native was released Sept. 11. 

According to the heart institute, a heart attack victim’s chances of survival goes down by about 10 percent for every minute that CPR is not initiated. 

Officials from the institute reiterated that anyone can use an AED if need be. Pictures on the device gives individuals a visual guide on where to put the pads. It also talks to you and won’t go to the next step until the previous task is completed. 

The Dillon family said they planned on buying an AED for their boat in case they ever find another person in a similar situation who needs aid. “I will never be able to repay any of these people, but I can pay it forward by trying to help someone else,” Dennis said.

Doctors will be hosting community events throughout what is American Heart Month. On Feb. 26 from 9 to 10 a.m. Brittany Kickel, chest pain center coordinator, will host Avoiding Common Heart Health Mistakes at the Smith Haven Mall food court. For more information, visit heart.stonybrookmedicine.edu. 

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